The calendar has flipped, the weather has cooled and school is in session for students at all levels all across the region. And as students at the Morris Campus in the heart of the Bronx funnel up the concrete rampways and into the building, they’ll notice a colorful new addition to their school: a newly refurbished cafeteria, thanks to the American Dairy Association North East and the New York Jets.
The ribbon was officially cut, and the remolded cafeteria was officially unveiled during a morning ceremony earlier in September that featured several speakers and dignitaries, including principals, school board members and former Jets fullback Tony Richardson.
Among the features of the new cafeteria are brightly painted walls adorned with motivational quotes and sayings, food kiosks and improved options and access to dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and smoothies.
“Walking in and seeing how beautiful this is, it’s really nice and kind of overwhelming,” said Richardson, who appeared on behalf of the Jets and the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which encourages kids to participate in 60 minutes of activity a day while fueling up and nourishing their bodies with dairy. “We had almost 100 kids in this cafeteria this morning. You see the words on the wall like leadership and resiliency and motivation, they remind them they can be successful in anything they want to do in life.
“When I was these kids’ age, we didn’t really have anything like this to tell us about the importance of nutrition and especially of dairy products to fuel not just our bodies, but also our brains for a school day. These kids now have improved information to these important foods, particularly the dairy foods with all their benefits. When I was a kid, I wish I had all this.”
In addition to the ribbon cutting, the day’s festivities included contests for the kids to win signed Jets memorabilia and, of course, the ceremonial first serving in the new cafeteria.
With his playing days now in the past, Richardson spends his professional hours working with various fitness and nutritional endeavors with young people, so this cafeteria makeover and its deeper meaning really speaks to him.
“When talking to kids about the importance of breakfast and fueling up with dairy in the morning, I always like to use an analogy with cars,” Richardson, a 16-year NFL veteran and three-time NFL Pro Bowler, said.
“Imagine you have your favorite car in your favorite color, and you want to show it off and pick all your friends up. You clean it and put your music on and you’re ready to roll. You tell your friends you’re on your way. But when you get in the car, you try to start it and there’s no gas in the tank. You can’t go anywhere.
“That’s what happens when you don’t eat a healthy breakfast full of milk and dairy. You run out of gas during the day. But these kids here won’t have to worry about that with the amazing nutrition and dairy options at this amazing new cafeteria!”